Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on June 2, 2016.

Written by Becky Witt

DISCLAIMER Community Law Center Staff Attorney and Booze News blogger Becky Lundberg Witt represented the community association in this case.
Applicant Fred Allen
Business Name Park-Read, Inc.
Trading As The Drinkery
Address 203-09 W. Read St
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Motion for Reconsideration of May 19, 2016 Decision
Hearing notes

Before the scheduled hearings began, the chairman noted that the Board would first make a decision on the motion for reconsideration filed by the Drinkery’s licensee through his attorney of the May 19 BLLC decision, in which the Board did not renew the license.

Chairman Matriciani said that, having reviewed the motions for both sides, he was inclined to deny the motion for reconsideration, due to insufficient grounds.

Commissioner Moore disagreed. What concerned her most was Mr. Curtis’s signature on the petition to protest the renewal of the license, since Mr. Curtis is a Baltimore City liquor licensee at a hotel in Mount Vernon, “which is not permitted by our rules.” She said that, by itself, was not “such a huge problem” since there were many more than 10 signatories. She said that her problem was Curtis’s testimony at the hearing as a “competing licensee.” He was not permitted to participate, said Moore, per the BLLC’s rules. For that reason, she would grant the motion for reconsideration.

Commissioner Greenfield agreed with Commissioner Moore. He said that Curtis’s testimony is in violation of Article 2B section 10-301 and for that reason he would support the motion.

Zoning B-5-1
Neighborhood Mount Vernon
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,331; 5.5% households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? N/A
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident N/A
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Motion for reconsideration granted
Vote tally 2-1 (Matricciani dissenting)
Portions of state law cited in decision Art. 2B section 10-301
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

The standard for a motion for reconsideration is that the Board can reconsider and reverse previous decisions if the decision was a product of fraud, surprise, mistake or that some new factual situation exists that justifies a different result. The commissioners who voted in favor of the motion did not mention the arguments presented in the opponents’ brief. Article 2B section 10-301 and its corresponding rule state that the petition must be signed by not fewer than ten residents, commercial tenants who are not license holders, and real estate owners in the immediate vicinity of the establishment. Mr. Curtis is both a resident and a licensee. He testified in his capacity as a resident, not as a commercial tenant. In fact, there was no testimony presented as to whether he as an individual is a commercial tenant. Commissioner Moore also noted how persuasive she had found Mr. Curtis’s testimony on May 19, but she never mentioned his testimony when she was explaining her decision not to renew the license.

11:00AM

Licensee Ronald Persaud
Business Name MVP Entertainment, LLC
Trading As Club 347
Address 347 N. Calvert Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Protest of Renewal
Hearing notes

Mr. Saller, for the licensee, proffered that his client has reached an agreement with Mercy Medical Center. Mr. Bragdon listed the terms of the agreement: if Mercy withdraws its protest of the renewal of the license, the licensee agrees to move to another location within six months (by December 2, 2016). Mercy agrees to abate the rent, as the landlord, during the remaining lease term, and to pay $20,000 to help the licensee move to a new location. Mercy will require that the licensee comply with the law during the remaining lease term. If the licensee remains on the property after December 2, Mercy can bring legal action to evict him. Chairman Matricciani asked for a copy of both the term sheet and the eventual written agreement.

The Board then discussed whether the withdrawal of the protest by Mercy Medical would mean that the case is dismissed. Under the Pridgeon case, which Commissioner Moore stated the holding of, the Board is required to hear any testimony from anyone present, but no one else offered any testimony.

The Chairman asked whether the Board can conditionally renew the license. Mr. Thomas Akras responded that the Board has only two choices: to renew or not renew.

Zoning B-5-2
Neighborhood Downtown
Area demographics 39% White, 37% Black, 16% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 9% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,146; 18% households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? N/A
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident N/A
Attorney for licensee Mr. Andrew B. Saller
# in support 1
Attorney for community Mr. James Bragdon (for Mercy Medical Center)
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers
Result of hearing License renewed
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None

1:30PM

Licensees Weston Harlan & Brittany Harlan
Business Name 400 W. 23rd Street, Inc.
Trading As W.C. Harlan
Address 400 W. 23rd Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Protest of Renewal
Hearing notes

There were no community members present to protest the renewal of the W.C. Harlan liquor license. Mr. Hurdle, for the licensees, proffered that the community members and the licensee had met, with Councilman Stokes, and had resolved their differences. Hurdle submitted a letter of support of the licensees from another local community group. He also said that seven or eight of the original petitioners had changed their minds about the protest and had signed a new petition to that effect.

After further questioning, Mr. Hurdle explained that there had been some discussion in the past of the possibility of adding outdoor seating, which the community members who lived nearby opposed. They were concerned about a playground next to the bar and the effect that outdoor drinking might have. The licensee clarified that he has no plans for outdoor tables, either now or in the future. The bar has never had any violations.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Remington
Area demographics 44% White, 35% Black, 3% 2 or more races, 13% Asian, 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $30,130.79; 14% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? N/A
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident N/A
Attorney for licensee Mr. Abraham Hurdle
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing License renewed
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None

2:30PM

Licensee Mengxiong Wang
Business Name Lucky 77, LLC
Trading As A-One Convenience Store
Address 1625 Wilkens Avenue
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Protest of Renewal
Hearing notes

Mr. Gary Maslan, for the licensee, made some preliminary objections to the hearing. First, he pointed out that Article 2B requires that the petition be “signed” by at least ten individuals. Maslan argued that the petitioners had printed their names, not “signed” them. Second, he noted that the caption to the petition was not reproduced on the second page, which just had signatures on it. Maslan said that the board can’t consider it, because those individuals may not have known what they were signing. Maslan noted that this second page was “replete with printing and therefore deficient on its face” and should not be considered by the Board. Ms. Maria Moses, a community activist who lives nearby, replied that she read the petition to people as she was gathering signatures. Chairman Matricciani noted that everyone has their own way of “signing” things; some people sign with an “x.” Mr. Maslan replied that his client went out and talked with the people who signed the petition, and Maslan said that he had verification that they did not sign the petition. He also complained that the petition lacks sufficient specificity. The chairman denied all of the objections and allowed the hearing to go forward.

Ms. Maria Moses testified that she lives two doors down from the establishment and that the owners of the business allow drug dealers to loiter there. On January 30, 2016, Ms. Moses said that a drug dealer was kicking in her door. He went inside the liquor store, according to Moses, retrieved a two-by-four piece of lumber, and was intending to use it to attack Ms. Moses. Moses said that she saw the piece of wood inside the liquor store, behind the counter, after the incident. Moses says that there is a school across the street, and children from that school buy cigarillos every single day. (Cigarillos are small cigars, which are sometimes flavored. Public health experts often claim that their candy flavors, like chocolate, strawberry, grape, and fruit punch, are marketed to children.) Maria said that she tells the owners of the store that they cannot sell tobacco to minors. On cross-examination, Moses admitted that she is a convicted drug felon but said that she has devoted her life to cleaning up neighborhoods.

Ms. Nancy McCormick, president of the Mt Clare Community Association, stated that she lives around the corner but hasn’t personally witnessed any illegal activity herself. She says that she does not like the idea of minors going inside liquor stores and there should be a sign that says “no minors allowed.” The neighborhood does have a drug problem, and Ms. Moses is trying to help clean it up.

Ms. Josephine Battaglia testified that she has personally witnessed children, teenagers, and young people who she knows to be drug dealers inside the establishment. She says that she never sees the owners do anything about the children in the establishment. Commissioner Moore noted that the establishment sells other products that are nonalcoholic, which the children may be purchasing. The community members responded that the children shouldn’t be inside the store anyway. They have not personally witnessed any drug sales inside or any sales to minors.

The licensee, Mr. Wang, testified that he never sells tobacco to minors, and he always asks for ID. Another employee, Ms. Lee Wei, testified that Ms. Moses is giving everyone trouble, and that the police told her to get a restraining order against Moses. She said that she never gave anyone a 2×4.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood New Southwest/Mount Clare
Area demographics 17% White, 76% Black, 1% Asian; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 36% households have children under age 18; median household income: $28,513.80; 30% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? N/A
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident N/A
Attorney for licensee Mr. Gary Maslan
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 3
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing License renewed
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

To Ms. Moses, Chairman Matricciani said that the Board has heard her testimony that that they believe her that the neighborhood is troubled and that children are exposed to things that they shouldn’t be. The problem is, he said, that the only issue is whether the Board can renew the license at this location. He said that he did not believe that there was sufficient evidence presented in the record to deny the renewal of the license. However, addressing the licensee, Matricciani noted that if he serves young people, there will be complaints. He suggested that community mediation might be helpful to both sides.

Commissioner Greenfield and Commissioner Moore echoed the Chairman’s thoughts and encouraged the community members and the licensee to work together to address drug trafficking and any purchase of alcohol or tobacco by minors.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Under city law, liquor stores are not allowed to sell any product, even chips, candy, or drinks, to minors. So regardless of whether or not the licensee was selling cigarillos to minors, those people should not have been purchasing anything in his store at all. This provision seems to be so ignored, however, that both licensees and regulating agencies don’t even seem to be familiar with it.

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